By Jose Cielito Reganit

SESSION BEGINS. Speaker Martin Romualdez bangs the gavel to start the Second Regular Session of the 19th Congress at the House of Representatives in Batasan, Quezon City on Monday (July 24, 2023). Romualdez vowed on Tuesday that the House will pass before the end of the year all the 17 priority bills President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. mentioned in his second State of the Nation Address. (PNA photo by Joan Bondoc)

MANILA – Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Tuesday expressed confidence that the House of Representatives will pass the 17 priority bills that President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. requested Congress to pass in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday.

In a statement, Romualdez said the House had approved on the third and final reading seven of the President’s priority measures.

He said he is confident that the chamber would “wrap up the final approval” of the remaining 10 SONA priority measures before the end of the year.

“I am extremely confident that the House of Representatives would again rise up to the occasion and accept the challenge from our President: to pass the 17 priority measures needed to sustain our economic recovery and improve the living condition of our people,” he said.

The seven SONA priority measures that the House approved during the First Regular Session of the 19th Congress include House Bill No. 4102 or Single-Use Plastic Bags Tax Act; House Bill No. 4122 or An Act Imposing Value-Added Tax on Digital Transactions; and House Bill No. 6716 or An Act Mandating the Establishment of Fisherfolk Resettlement Areas by the Department of Agriculture, Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and Local Government Units.

Also passed were House Bill No. 7393 or Anti-Financial Account Scamming Act; House Bill No. 7006 or Automatic Income Classification Act for Local Government Units; House Bill No. 8203 or Bureau of Immigration Modernization Act; and House Bill No. 4125 or Ease of Paying Taxes Act.

Four of the remaining 10 SONA priority measures for approval are scheduled to be passed by October. These are Anti-Agricultural Smuggling; Amendments to the Cooperative Code; Tatak Pinoy; and Blue Economy.

The House also seeks to approve the six remaining priority measures by December. These are Motor Vehicle User’s Charge; Military and Uniformed Personnel (MUP) Pension; Revised Procurement Law; New Government Auditing Code; Rationalization of Mining Fiscal Regime; and National Water Act.

Romualdez noted that the list of SONA priority measures does not include the proposed 2024 national budget which the Executive Department will submit to Congress sometime next month.

“Of course, the most important bill that we need to discuss and approve the soonest time possible is the 2024 General Appropriations Bill based on the National Expenditure Program prepared by the Executive Department,” he pointed out.

“Ang national budget na ipapasa namin ang magsisiguro na lahat ng buwis na ibinabayad ng mga kababayan natin, gayundin ang iba pang revenue sources na nakokolekta, ay babalik sa taumbayan sa pamamagitan ng mga programa, proyekto at serbisyo (The national budget that we will pass will ensure that the taxes paid by our people, as well as those collected from other revenue sources, will go back to the people in the form of programs, projects and services),” the House leader said.

He said the House of Representatives will work double time if needed to meet their “self-imposed deadline” of approving the 2024 appropriations bill, as well as the remaining 10 SONA priority measures, before the end of the year 2023.

“Sa pagpasa ng lahat ng panukalang batas na hiniling ng Pangulo, umaasa kami na makakatulong kami dito sa House of Representatives na mapalago pang lalo ang ekonomiya, mapasigla ang negosyo, maparami pa ang trabaho at mapalawak ang serbisyong hatid natin sa mga Pilipino (By passing all the proposed measures requested by the President, we in the House of Representatives hope to help in further growing the economy, create more jobs and expand services to Filipinos),” Romualdez said. (PNA)